Thermal burns from artificial turf – what is the risk?

Dr Ella Darveniza1, Dr Katharine Guggenheimer2, A/Professor Peter Haertsch3, Professor Peter Maitz4

1 Concord Burns Unit, Concord Hospital, Concord, NSW, 2149
2 Austin Hospital, Heidelberg, VIC, 3084
3 Concord Burns Unit, Concord Hospital, Concord, NSW, 2149
4 Concord Burns Unit, Concord Hospital, Concord, NSW, 2149

Following reports to the Concord Burns Unit of thermal burns sustained by players from the synthetic surface of a sports field, a review of the literature was performed to determine the probability of such injuries occurring. Synthetic turf has been used since the 1960s as an alternative to grass primarily due to the low cost of maintenance. Among athletes there is a preference for natural turf due to perceptions of an increased injury risk on infilled synthetic turf and hotter surface temperatures. Searching published medical literature does not identify indexed publications of thermal injuries from synthetic turf, however review of thermal properties of synthetic turf identify temperatures significantly higher than natural turf, with the highest surface temperature in a published paper being 93°C. Our model examines the mechanism for contact thermal burns from synthetic sports surfaces. Conductive burns occur at 44°C after 6 hours, each 1°C increase halves time to burn, until 70°C where time to burn is <1 second. Burns within the length of a soccer game (90 minutes) will occur at temperatures >51°C. The EU standard for shoe sole thermal insulation is a 20°C reduction in temperature, equating to a turf surface temperature of 71°C.  Such surface temperatures are generated when ambient air temperature >38°C – thus it is possible that thermal burns can be sustained from synthetic turf surfaces, even whilst wearing shoes.

Key Words

Thermal burn, contact burn, artificial turf, synthetic turf

Biography

Ella Darveniza is a Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Registrar with an interest in burns. She is currently working at Peter MacCallum Hospital and undertaking a Masters in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

About ANZBA

ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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